Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Paint for Furniture (+Infographic)

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So, you want to revamp your furniture but have no idea which paint for furniture to use? There are chalk paint, milk paint, mineral paint, latex paint and oil paint. Your head might be spinning from all of these choices. You hear avid DIY furniture flippers swearing by chalk paint as the holy grail that works for ALL surfaces without any prep at all. But is that really true? Does the hype have some truth to it?

Also, which paint is the best when you are looking for a distressed look? Do you need to sand, prime and topcoat the paint? It seems like every option has its own process to it and at this point, you might want to just give up on painting your furniture.

Don’t give up just yet! In this guide, I aim to show everything you need to know when it comes to choosing the right paint for furniture, and you can even have a handy infographic (at the end) to help you out! I’m a visual learner, so infographics are the best at delivering bite-sized knowledge! With this guide, you can be confident at tackling ANY furniture painting project, trust me!

The 5 Paints for Furniture

how to paint furniture

Let’s begin with listing the 5 main types of paint that you should know when it comes to painting furniture: Latex Paint, Chalk Paint, Milk Paint, Mineral Paint and Oil Paint. You might ask, what about Acrylic Paint?  Well, Mineral Paint is acrylic paint and Latex Paint comes in various forms including the popular Acrylic Latex paint and Vinyl Acrylic Latex paint. This is super confusing, I know! Stay with me! So, to keep it simple, we shall just talk about these 5 paints! Don’t worry about the technical part.

If your furniture feels sticky, have a rough finish, or easily fades, stains, chips or peels off, it is most likely that you are using the wrong kind of paint or technique. So read on to find out which is the right paint for your furniture!

Does your furniture have an oil-based or water-based finish?

Before we start, you should first check if your current piece of furniture was painted with oil-based paint.

  1. Damp a rag with acetone, denatured alcohol or a deglosser, and rub the surface of your furniture with it

  2. If a colour comes off from the furniture and onto the rag, the paint is water-based. If there are no transfer of colours, the paint is oil-based, and the surface has to be prepped differently.

Water and oil do not mix. This is true when it comes to using a water-based product over an oil-based paint as this will cause the paint to peel or chip off.

Does this mean that you can only use oil-based products over oil-based paint?

Ideally, that’s the case, but oil paints release a high amount of VOCs and toxic fumes, which is a cause of concern especially if you are painting interior furniture and painting near vulnerable groups of people.

You can paint using a water-based product over oil-based paint with these steps:

  1. Sand the furniture with a fine-grit sandpaper (#180-#220) to rough up the surface and de-gloss the surface. The goal is to make the surface less slick and glossy.

  2. Wipe the surface down to remove any sanding dust with a tack cloth

  3. Putting on rubber gloves and safety glasses, dilute ¼ cup of TSP (trisodium phosphate) in 1 gallon of water.

  4. Damp a sponge or a rag with the TSP solution and deep clean the furniture.

  5. Wipe down the furniture again with a rag/sponge, but with clean water this time, & let it air-dry

  6. Apply 1-2 coats of oil- or water-based bonding primer and let it dry (1 hr for water-based and 8 hrs for oil-based)

  7. Now you can apply the water-based paint over it. You will usually need to apply 2 coats for good coverage over the primed surface, with sufficient drying time between coats according to product instructions

Does this mean you can use chalk paint or milk paint over oil-based finishes? You can… but it’s not recommended! If you want to use a water-based paint over an oil-based paint, it is better to use latex paint or mineral paint.

Bottomline: If your furniture has an oil-based finish, you need to prep it by sanding and deep cleaning with TSP, prime it with a bonding primer, and you can use oil paint, latex paint or mineral paint to paint the furniture!

Latex Paint

latex paint for furniture

Credits: Peter Burka on Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/pburka/14268715873/

Latex paint has now been overshadowed by specialty paints such as chalk paint and milk paint, but truth be told, it is one of the best paints for furniture! You can find latex paint in nearly every colour practically in any store near you! As compared to other paints, you will be spoiled for choices when it comes to colours for latex paint and you can even request the paint shop to create a custom shade for you! It is one of the most accessible and affordable option for paint and it comes in multiple finishes: matte/flat, satin, semi-gloss or glossy. I will explain finishes at a later section, or you can jump right to it here!

As compared to oil paint, latex paint is low or no-VOC (volatile organic compound) which means that it emits little noxious fumes. This is an especially important factor when you are doing indoor painting projects. Latex paint can be used for practically any surface including wood and metal furniture, making it a staple for any DIY furniture painters. However, it does not distress as easily as other water-based paints. Some recommend letting the paint dry overnight before sanding it lightly to distress and not to sand too hard to prevent the latex paint from peeling.

Now, when you search for latex paint, you will find that there are exterior and interior latex paint.

As the name suggests, use exterior latex paint for outdoor furniture such as your patio sets our lounge chairs. Exterior latex paints are specially formulated with flexible resins to stand up to various weather conditions from fluctuating temperature, UV rays and more. Due to this flexible formulation, this makes exterior paint more prone to scratches and damage from scuffing and releases more VOC than interior paint.

On the other hand, interior latex paint is made of rigid resins, making it more resistant to damage and easier to clean. So, don’t make the mistake of thinking exterior latex paint would be more durable than interior latex paint. Always use interior paint for indoor projects!

The best latex paints are acrylic latex paints which means it is all-acrylic or 100% acrylic, making it more resistant to fading and cracking, and far more durable than that vinyl latex or vinyl-acrylic latex paint, though much pricier.

Do You Need to Prime or Seal Latex Paint?

Primer is HIGHLY recommended for latex paint.

Though latex paint is durable, it is prone to scratches and chips under heavy use. Always prep the furniture by sanding it first. Read more about how to sand furniture here.

And afterwards, prime it with a water-based primer to ensure the latex paint adheres better. See the recommended water-based primers here. Remember, if your furniture has an oil-based finish, use a bonding primer.

Oil-based primer should only be used if you are painting metal. Make sure you have adequate ventilation as oil-baser primer emits more VOC.

How to Apply Latex Paint on Oil-based Primers?

  1. Let the oil-based primer dry for at least 8 hrs

  2. Light sand the primer with a 180-grit sandpaper or so to rough up the surface

  3. Wipe away any sanding dust from the surface

  4. Apply 2 coats of latex paint, allowing 2-4 hours of dry time between each coat

The next question is: Do you need to topcoat latex paint?

  • No, if the furniture is in low-traffic spaces and seldom used.

  • Yes, if the furniture is in high-traffic spaces and frequently used.

A great topcoat for latex paint is Varathane Water-based Polyurethane. The topcoat will give an extra layer of protection and makes the surface more waterproof. If water penetrates the surface, it can cause latex paints to bubble up. We don’t want any bubbles, do we?

Dry and Cure Times

Unless stated by the brand, these are the general dry and cure times for latex paint.

  1. Primer: 1 hr dry time

  2. Paint between coats: 1-3 hrs dry time

  3. Final coat of paint: 7 hrs dry time

  4. Topcoat: 1 hr dry time between coats; 24 hours after final coat

  5. Cure time: 30 days

    Cure time refers to the duration it takes for the paint to reach MAXIMUM durability and hardness. So the piece should be used with care before it has been cured as it can be susceptible to damage during that period.

    Sherwin Williams ProClassic is known for its short 7-days cure time. So if you want to cut down the time, you can try out this brand!

How to Paint with Latex Paint

  1. Prep your furniture by sanding it. You can lightly sand it just to rough up the surface. Read more about how to sand furniture + handy infographics here.

  2. Clean and wipe down the furniture with a tack cloth to remove any sanding dust.

  3. Paint on a layer of water-based primer (or oil-based primer for metal surfaces).

    Pro Tip: Use tinted/darker primer for darker furniture pieces to reduce the number of coats you need to cover it up later.

    If your furniture has an oil-based finish, use a bonding primer.

  4. Wait for 1 hour for primer to dry.

  5. Paint your first coat of paint and wait for 2-4 hours to dry.

  6. After the first coat has dried, paint on the second coat if needed.

  7. After painting the final coat, wait 7 hours to fully dry.

  8. Apply a topcoat of clear polyurethane if the furniture will be used in high-traffic areas and leave it overnight

  9. Use furniture lightly in the 30-day cure period.


To sum up, latex paint is versatile for any pieces of furniture, especially those in low-traffic areas, and perfect if you are looking for a specific shade to match your home. It is also great to paint over furniture with an oil-based finish.


  • Easily Accessible

  • Has the widest range of colour options

  • Can be used on any surfaces

  • Low or no VOC

  • Dries faster than oil paint

  • Easy clean up with soap and water

  • Available in multiple finishes


  • Not durable for heavy use, unless the furniture is prepped, and topcoat used

  • Bubbles up if water penetrates it, so a waterproof topcoat needed if glasses/cups will be placed on it.

  • Difficult to distress

latex paint for furniture infographic

Chalk Paint

chalk paint for furniture

Claimed to be the holy grail by furniture DIY-aholics, chalk paint seems to be on everyone’s list. But is it really as great as it seems? Chalk paint is a water-based product which can be applied on most surfaces such as wood and metal pieces and emits minimal VOCs and fumes. It is highly raved to be the paint where you don’t need to prep or sand your furniture at all, but let’s be real guys. If you want the paint to stick well to your pieces in the long run, you should always prep it. Even a light sanding is better than nothing.

For vintage and shabby chic lovers, chalk paint can be easily sanded to distress or weather it. Chalk paint distresses in fine powder as compared to latex paint that can be distressed in pieces. Though chalk paint seems to be popular among beginners, did you know that applying it perfectly with no brush marks can be a challenge to some? Since the consistency is so thick, brush strokes are often seen on your piece, especially if you went to recoat an area to touch it up. To prevent this, I would recommend using a specialised chalk paintbrush or a foam roller.

Why You Must Seal Chalk paint

While there’s no need to prime your pieces before applying chalk paint (unless your piece has been heavily stained previously, so you need a stain-blocking primer in that case), you ABSOLUTELY need to seal chalk paint with either a wax or a topcoat!

If a chalk-painted piece comes into contact with water, it can actually turn back into liquid! Can you imagine what a disaster that would be?! Chalk paint can even come off if you rub against it if it wasn’t sealed on top.

Wax or Topcoat?

chalk paint wax for furniture

Chalk paint always comes with its wax as a whole package. And most people tend to use wax as a protective coating over chalk paint. But one thing I dislike about using wax is that you must reapply it every 6 months to maintain its durability! I don’t know about you, but that’s a deal breaker for me. Once I’m done painting furniture, I am DONE. I don’t want to keep touching it up for years to come. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!

Plus, there’s a learning curve to applying wax. If you don’t buff enough wax onto the surface or didn’t apply it properly, water can easily penetrate the piece and again, the paint would re-liquify.

A better alternative to wax is to use a clear topcoat which is a clear liquid that can be brushed on top of the paint with a regular brush. A clear coat is much easier to apply and more affordable than wax.

Seeing as how clear coat is so much better than wax, why is wax still so popular?

This is because wax preserves the look and feel of the chalk paint. People love that chalky finish.

Can you achieve the same look and feel with a clear coat?

Of course, you can! General Finish’s Flat Out Flat Top Coat is one of the best top coat for chalk paint as it preserve the original look and feel of the chalk paint! It dries fast and you can easily clean it up with soap and water.

Bottomline: Use General Finish’s Flat Out Flat Top Coat to seal chalk paint!

Dry and Cure times

Unless stated by the brand, these are the general dry and cure times for chalk paint.

  1. Paint between coats: 24 hours dry time While chalk paint dries in 15 minutes or more, it is highly recommended to wait up to 24 hours before you recoat it to prevent any streakiness, especially if you are a beginner

  2. Topcoat: 1 hr dry time between coats; 24 hours after final coat

  3. Cure time: 30 days

How to Paint with Chalk Paint

  1. Prep your furniture by lightly sanding it.

  2. Stir the chalk paint well before use.

chalk paint brush for furniture

  1. Apply chalk paint with a chalk paintbrush or a foam roller to reduce brush marks

  2. If 2nd coat of paint needed, wait for 24 hours before applying it.

  3. Sand the edges to distress it and give a weathered look.

  4. Wait for 24 hours to let the final coat of chalk paint dry before applying a clear topcoat.

  5. You can choose to add a 2nd layer of topcoat for maximum durability. Let topcoat dry for 1 hour between coats, and 24 hours after the final clear coat.


Chalk paint is the best to refinish antique furniture for a rich but ultra-matte look, and to achieve a distressed look more precisely than milk paint.


  • Low or no VOC

  • Can be applied to most surfaces

  • Signature rich, matte look

  • Dries quickly

  • Easily distressed in a controlled manner


  • Application might be challenging to beginners and might leave behind brush marks or streakiness unless a specialty chalk paintbrush or a foam roller is used

  • Unless coated with a clear coat, chalk paint is not waterproof and can be easily scratched or rubbed off

  • Tends to be more expensive

  • Limited range of colours

  • Not recommended to paint over oil-based paint

chalk paint for furniture infographic

Milk Paint

Some of us might be confused between chalk paint and milk paint. These 2 are always highly raved in the DIY community nowadays. Milk paint is a water-based product that has a thinner consistency than chalk paint and is free of VOCs due to its eco-friendly ingredients. Milk paint is formulated to self-distress as it dries and is the perfect paint if you are looking to create a distressed look with cracks and flakes.


Out of all the paints introduced in this article, milk paint has the most character as its look can’t be replicated with any other paint and it can be unpredictable in its results. On raw wood especially, milk paint acts like a stain because it soaks into the wood and it gives such a unique finish that stands out from other furniture pieces. Some people LOVE that unpredictability but other (like myself) prefer a bit more predictability when it comes to painting furniture.

Mixing and Bonding

milk paint for furniture

The unique think about milk paint is that it is usually sold in powder form. So you have to manually mix it with water to a smooth consistency. It might be challenging for beginners to find the right consistency. Crafters recommend the use of blender specially for milk paint, especially if you will be mixing a large amount of milk paint.

Each mix of milk paint can stay fresh in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days, but it will expire afterwards. So be sure to only mix the amount that you need for the current project!

While milk paint can be used on most surfaces, its results are inconsistent and can often result in chippy or flaky finish. It is also difficult to predict if the paint will distress in a fine powder or larger chips.

To have a less chippy finish or for more consistent results, you have to add a bonding agent. This is especially important if you will be painting on smooth surfaces such as glass.

Do You Need to Prime or Seal Milk Paint?

If you will be adding a bonding agent, you won’t need to prime the furniture. A water-based clear topcoat, however, is recommended to seal milk-painted furniture to make the matte finish even more smooth, durable and easier to clean.

Dry and Cure Time

Unless stated by the brand, these are the general dry and cure times for latex paint.

  1. Paint between coats: 2-4 hrs dry time

    The longer you dry the paint between coats, the more consistent the finish.

  2. Final coat of paint: 24 hrs dry time

  3. Topcoat: 1 hr dry time between coats; 24 hrs after final coat

  4. Cure time: 21 days

How to Paint with Milk Paint

  1. Mix 1 portion milk paint with 1 portion water for a typical milk paint finish. You can experiment with the portions for different finishes.

    For a stain or wash effect, mix 1 portion milk paint with 3 portion water.

  2. Mix in a bonding agent if you want a better consistency or a less chippy look

  3. Prep the furniture by sanding it lightly.

how to distress furniture

  1. Depending on the look you are going for, you will paint 2-3 coats of milk paint

    Wait for 2 hours between coats

    For an authentic distressed or aged look, sand between coats.

  2. Wait for 24 hours after final coat of paint

    To distress the paint, lightly sand the edges. Otherwise, leave it for a smooth finish.

  3. Add 2 coats clear topcoat on the milk-painted furniture, with 1 hours of dry time between coats

  4. Wait for 24 hours before using the piece and use it lightly while it is curing up to 21 days.


Milk paint is the best for unique and artistic pieces with an antique or distressed look. You can also use it as a unique wash or stain to highlight the grains on wood, or for a smooth modern feel by adding the bonding agent.


  • Free of VOC

  • Fast drying time

  • Can adhere well to most surfaces

  • Unique look that can’t be replicated

  • Easily distressed for chippy look


  • Difficult to mix to get consistent saturation

  • Unpredictable finish for beginners

  • Without any topcoat, the paint will scratch or chip easily

  • Requires a bonding agent for consistent results, less chippy look or for smooth surfaces such as glass

  • Once mixed, the paint can’t be kept longer than 5-7 days

  • Not recommended to paint over oil-based paint

milk paint for furniture infographics

Mineral Paint

Mineral paint is actually an acrylic paint and a water-based product that can be applied to most surfaces and can be cleaned up easily with soap and water. Similar to milk paint, mineral paint is VOC-free.

The best part of mineral paint is that it is self-levelling, which means that the paint will go on evenly on the surface and there’s lesser chance of leaving brush marks or texture on the surface as compared to chalk paint. This is a great option especially for beginners as it is super easy to apply as compared to chalk paint!

Mineral paint can be sanded to give it a distressed look, though it should be done as soon as possible after painting! With Fusion Mineral Paint especially, you can even antique it by applying Fusion’s brand of wax or glaze on top of the paint.

As compared to the other water-based paints such as chalk or milk paint, mineral paint is more resistant to chips or cracks, and has better durability overall. Due to its acrylic resin base, mineral paint is waterproof, stain-proof and has its own built-in topcoat! The downside is that it is often sold in smaller containers, making it a pricy option if you are doing a large-scale painting project.

Do You Need to Prime or Seal Mineral Paint?

A primer is always a good idea for any water-based paint to let it adhere better to the surface. Remember, if your furniture has an oil-based finish, you have to use a bonding primer before applying the mineral paint.

Mineral paint is currently the only water-based option here that requires no topcoat! It already has a built-in topcoat! How awesome is that? After the paint has dried and cured, it is waterproof for normal usage. Of course, for high traffic areas, it is always recommended to add a layer of topcoat for extra durability. You can definitely do that. But there’s no need to wax your mineral-painted furniture!

Dry and Cure time

  1. Primer: 1 hr dry time

  2. Paint between coats: 2hrs dry time

  3. Final coat of paint: 12-24 hrs dry time

  4. Topcoat (optional): 1 hr dry time between coats; 24 hrs after final coat

  5. Cure time: 21 days

How to Paint with Mineral Paint

  1. Mineral paint generally requires minimal prep. You can lightly sand it with 150-220 grit sandpaper just to rough up the surface.

    Read more about how to sand furniture + handy infographics here.

  2. Clean and wipe down the furniture with a tack cloth to remove any sanding dust.

  3. Paint on a layer of water-based primer

    Pro Tip: Use tinted/darker primer for darker furniture pieces to reduce the number of coats you need to cover it up later.

    If your furniture has an oil-based finish, use a bonding primer.

  4. Wait for 1 hour for primer to dry.

  1. Paint your first coat of mineral paint and wait for 2 hours to dry.

  2. After the first coat has dried, paint on the second coat if needed.

    If you intend to distress it, sand the edges immediately after painting. Sand between coats.

  3. After painting the final coat, wait 12-24 hours to fully dry.

  4. Apply a topcoat of clear polyurethane if the furniture will be used in high-traffic areas for extra durability and leave it overnight

  5. Use furniture lightly in the 21-day cure period.


how to paint with mineral paint

Mineral paint is the best for quick projects where you can skip the topcoat or wax, and for small accent pieces since the paint usually comes in a smaller container.


  • Free of VOC, non-toxic and environmentally friendly

  • Built-in topcoat

  • Minimal prep work

  • Self-levelling, so it’s easy to apply and leaves a smooth finish

  • High durability, waterproof and stainproof

  • Can be painted on most surfaces, including glossy and oil-based ones


  • Works best with primer

  • Usually sold in small containers

  • Not as easily distressed as chalk and milk paint. It is recommended to sand immediately after paint application.

mineral paint for furniture infographic

Oil Paint

And lastly, oil-based paint is another choice of paint for furniture and it leaves a smooth, glossy finish. Oil paint is less popular now due to its high levels of VOCs, flammability, high cost and longer drying times. I personally don’t like using oil-based paint as there are much better low-VOC options out there such as mineral paint. With oil paint, you need to have abundant ventilation and this can cause concern to some, especially if you will be painting near your children or pets.

Oil paint does provide one of the most durable finish among furniture paints and it won’t chip or scratch easily. It can adhere to most surfaces and it is self-levelling, making it easy to work with. If you are unsure if your furniture has been previously painted with oil paint, you can consider using oil paint as it can adhere to both water-based and oil-based paint. Water-based paint, on the other hand, can only be applied on other water-based finishes.

 Dry and Cure Times

  1. Oil-based primer: 24 hrs dry time

  2. Paint between coats: 24 hrs dry time

  3. Cure time: 7 days

How to Paint with Oil Paint

sand furniture

  1. Lightly sand furniture with 150-220 grit sandpaper just to rough up the surface. Read more about how to sand furniture + handy infographics here.

  2. Clean and wipe down the furniture with a tack cloth to remove any sanding dust.

  3. Paint on a layer of oil-based primer and wait for 24 hours to dry

    Pro Tip: Use tinted/darker primer for darker furniture pieces to reduce the number of coats you need to cover it up later.

  1. Paint your first coat of oil paint with a natural bristle brush and wait for 24 hours to dry.

  2. After first coat has dried, paint on the second coat if needed.

    Have mineral spirits or turpentine on hand to clean up any spilt oil paint and as paint thinner.

  3. After painting the final coat, wait 12-24 hours to fully dry.

  4. Apply an oil-based finish to seal the paint if the furniture will be used in high-traffic areas for extra durability and leave it overnight

  5. Use furniture lightly in the 7-days cure period.


Oil paint is the best for furniture in high traffic areas that will be heavily used and requires high durability.


  • High durability out of all the furniture paints

  • Self-leveling so it is easy to work with

  • Can adhere to most surfaces

  • Can be applied over both oil- and water-based products


  • High levels of VOC and toxic fumes

  • Long drying times

  • Will yellow over time, so it shouldn’t be used for white furniture

  • Can be expensive

  • Highly flammable

oil paint for furniture infographic

BONUS: Enamel Paint

I was hesitant to talk about enamel paint because it will just make your head spin even more! But it is becoming more popular in 2020 as one of the more durable paints around for your furniture, especially kitchen cabinets. Enamel is such a broad term and has been used to refer to both oil- and latex-based products, but what you should basically understand is that enamel paint basically refers to how it finishes to a smooth, hard shell.

In my opinion, it is not exactly beginner friendly as it is dries SUPER fast, so any dust or hair that gets on the paint will spoil it! You also can’t paint it like how you usually do by cutting in the corners first, unless you can paint SUPER FAST. Today, water-based enamel paint is preferred over oil-based enamel paint. Read on to find out their pros and cons.

Water-based Enamel Paint

Water-based enamel paints are all the rage now, particularly those in the Sherwin Williams and Valspar line, and painting professionals have been recommending it as the paint for kitchen cabinets. According to Sherwin Williams, their enamel paints are “Interior/exterior water based urethane modified alkyd with the look and feel of an alkyd/oil finish.” This means that there is an oil molecule inside the water-based latex paint and so it acts like oil while being water-based!


  • Low VOC

  • More durable than latex or mineral paint

  • Dries to a smooth, durable finish

  • Easy clean up with water and soap

  • No topcoat needed

  • Self-levelling

  • Non-yellowing as compared to oil-based enamel


  • Difficult to apply for beginners

  • Challenging to remove any stray bristles or dust from the painted surface

  • Not as durable as oil-based enamel

  • Extremely fast-drying, so you must work in a dust-free environment

  • Prone to brush marks, so make sure to paint with the grain

Oil-based Enamel Paint


  • More durable than water-based

  • Gives a more even finish than water-based

  • No topcoat needed

  • Self-levelling


  • Higher VOC

  • Each coat takes around 12-24 hours to dry

  • It yellows with time, so it is not suitable for white painted pieces

How to Apply Enamel Paint

  1. Stir the tin of paint. NEVER SHAKE THE CAN as it will create air bubbles in the paint and leave marks on the surface.

    If you have accidentally shaken the can, wait until it settles before using it.

  2. Remove all doors and hardware and place the pieces on a flat surface to prevent the paint from dripping

    Keep track of which cabinet doors and drawers go so that you can re-install smoothly.

  3. Prep the surface by deep cleaning or degreasing it, and sanding it

    Use TSP or a good degreaser to remove any dirt or oil buildup

    Lightly sand furniture with 150-220 grit sandpaper just to rough up the surface. Read more about how to sand furniture + handy infographics here.

    Clean and wipe down the furniture with a tack cloth to remove any sanding dust

  4. Apply a bonding primer over the piece and let it dry for 24 hours before sanding it with a very fine grit of sandpaper to smooth it out.

    Make sure the surface is clean of dust before you start painting the next coat

  5. Apply 2 coats of enamel paint using a foam roller or a nylon/polyester brush

  6. For oil-based enamel paint: Thin the paint according to the manufacturer’s directions before painting it.

  7. Allow each coat of paint to dry for 24-28 hours (or according to brand’s instructions) before recoating.

Latex Paint VS Chalk Paint VS Milk Paint VS Mineral Paint VS Oil Paint VS Enamel Paint

choosing the right paint for furniture infographic


These paints usually come in multiple finishes: flat/matte, eggshell/satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss (from lowest to highest sheen).

  1. Flat/Matte

Flat finishes give a matte and velvety look, and it doesn’t reflect much light.

Cons: It has low durability and can easily be scuffed off or scratched.

Best For: Furniture pieces in low-traffic areas and won’t be heavily used.

  1. Eggshell/Satin

Similar to flat finish, satin or eggshell finish also doesn’t reflect much light and gives a matte look. It is also more durable than flat finishes.

Best For: A matte and durable finish for furniture for both low- and high-traffic areas.

  1. Semi-gloss

Semi-gloss finish is considered to be the best paint finish for furniture as it reflects light well, has high durability for heavy use and can withstand constant cleaning.

Best For: All pieces of furniture with a slightly glossy finish

  1. High-gloss

High-gloss gives a very glossy finish to your pieces and has the highest durability out of all the finishes and can withstand very heavy use and cleaning.

Cons: High-gloss finishes requires the most demanding prep out of all the finishes and it will highlight any imperfections on the furniture.

Best For: Pieces in good condition (no scratches or imperfections) that need to withstand very heavy usage.

Bottomline: Generally speaking, the best paint finishes that has a good balance of durability and sheen for furniture are eggshell/satin and semi-gloss.

Decided on the perfect paint for your furniture? Check out these FAQs on painting furniture!

How to Prime Furniture (regardless of the paint)

Regardless of the paint you choose, it is best practice to prime all painting surfaces to prevent stains from bleeding through the new paint.

Different primers should be used depending on the piece. If the piece is:

  1. Stained wood

    A Stain-Blocking Primer must be used to prevent any colour from bleeding through the new coat of paint. Heavily stained pieces tend to have colour seeping through the new finish

  2. Previously painted with oil paint

    A Bonding Primer should be used to make sure the new paint adheres well to it.

    For Fusion Mineral Paint, the brand recommends the use of Fusion Ultra Grip as a primer on oil-based surfaces.

The Best Primers for Furniture

Regardless of the project you’re working on or the paint that you choose, the most recommended primer to use is Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer! It is great for both interior and exterior projects and it is a stain-blocking primer. It has low-VOC and seals porous surfaces.

While your furniture might not be a stained wood, Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer does its work effectively and it takes the guesswork out of choosing the right primer. Instead of wondering if the stain would seep through or not, I would rather tackle the piece with the primer first to guarantee the success of the project.

Another great stain-blocking primer you can consider is Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Base Primer which works great on laminate furniture and it dries extremely fast in 45 minutes!

I don’t usually recommend bonding primer for normal projects because it’s really heavy-duty and it’s generally pricier. But to find out which are bonding primers, check out the name of the product. It is usually stated to be “bonding” or an “adhesion” primer.

I would recommend the use of bonding primer if you need that STRONG adhesion, especially if you are applying water-based products over an oil-based surface or if you are painting your kitchen cabinets that will be heavily used.

How to Apply Primer Like A Pro

  1. After prepping the surface by sanding and cleaning, apply a coat of primer to it

    If you are planning to paint a dark colour, use a darker-toned primer to reduce the number of paint coats you will use later.

  2. Let the primer dry according to the product instructions.

  3. Once the first coat has dried, lightly sand away any drips with a 220-grit and wipe away the sanding dust with a tack cloth.

  4. If you can still see the colour of the piece coming through, like this cupboard here, you will need to apply another coat of primer.

  1. Once you no longer see any colour coming through, you can be confident that you have primed and prepped your furniture properly.

You are ready to paint on it now!

The Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinet

The paint for kitchen cabinet must be able to withstand heavy usage, spills and stains, so it has to be very durable and easily cleaned up! I recommend any one of these 4 combinations for painting kitchen cabinet:

  1. Bonding Primer + Interior Acrylic Latex Paint (Semi-Gloss finish) + 3-4 layers of topcoat

  2. Fusion Ultra Grip + Fusion Mineral Paint + 2-3 layers of topcoat

  3. Bonding Primer + Water-based enamel paint

  4. Bonding Primer + Oil-based enamel paint (Not for white look)

I have seen a lot of professionals advocate for the use of enamel paint over latex and mineral paint for kitchen cabinets as enamel paints can be easily touched up by applying another coat of paint, as no topcoat is applied over it.

Does this mean you cannot touch up latex or mineral paint once you have applied a topcoat over it?

That is simply not the case! While the topcoat is supposed to protect your furniture from being scuffed or scratched, accidents do happen. So if you need to touch up the piece, all you need to do is lightly sand over the scratches so that the surface is smooth again, and apply a topcoat over it again.

The best paint for kitchen cabinet infographic

The Best White Paint for Furniture

Did you know that painting your furniture white is actually one of the hardest looks to achieve? You might think that achieving a white look for your furniture would be simple for a beginner, but the opposite is actually true! That is because white paint tends to turn yellow due to the bleed through from the wood or due to the sealer used.

When you paint wood furniture, the natural oils within the wood grain, also known as wood tannins, might seep through the paint, causing your beautiful white finish to yellow. When you seal your furniture with certain sealers such as polyurethane, it might also cause your furniture to yellow.

The best way to paint furniture white infographic

To prevent any yellowing and to achieve the perfect white finish, it is not about WHICH PAINT TO CHOOSE, but more about how you PREP it:

  1. Clean with TSP

    You absolutely have to clean your furniture to remove any dirt, grime or grease on it. You can clean with TSPKrud Krutter or any other degreasing products.

  2. Wipe it off with water and vinegar

    After using the cleaning products such as TSP or a deglosser, you HAVE to clean it off with water and vinegar to prevent the TSP or chemicals residue from reacting to the paint!

  3. Sand the piece lightly

    Lightly sand furniture with 150-220 grit sandpaper just to rough up the surface. Read more about how to sand furniture + handy infographics here.

    Clean and wipe down the furniture with a tack cloth to remove any sanding dust

  4. Use a strong stain-blocking primer such as Zinsser B-I-N Shellac-Base Primer or Dixie Belle Boss Water-based Primer

    The Boss primer has lesser fumes than BIN Shellac Prime that tends to be quite smelly.

    Make sure to prime until you don’t see any colour coming through.

  5. Apply water-based paint

    Don’t use an oil-based white paint as it will yellow over time. So you can use latex paint, mineral paint, chalk paint, milk paint or water-based enamel paint for a white painted furniture!

    Paint at least 2 coats of paint to get a perfect white finish.

  6. Protect the paint with a Polycrylic Top Coat

    Polyurethane and oil-based clear coats tends to yellow over time, so opt for a water-based polycrylic clear coat instead.

According to a test done by Renovatedfaith on the best clear coat for white paint, CrystaLac Premium Clear Top Coat was the top contender!

Bottomline: To achieve a white painted furniture, you should CLEAN + SAND + 1-2 COATS OF STAIN-BLOCKING PRIMER + 2-3 COATS OF WATER-BASED PAINT (Latex, Chalk, Milk, Mineral, Enamel) + WATER-BASED POLYCRYLIC TOPCOAT

The Best Paint for Outdoor Furniture

How to paint outdoor furniture

Of course, it goes without saying that you have to prep your outdoor furniture before painting it. Scrape off any loose paint (and rust for metal) and sand it to smooth the surface. There are different exterior paints for different materials of outdoor furniture.


    If the wood is flexible such as wicker, oil-based latex paint is preferred over water-based ones.


  3. To paint outdoor plastic furniture, 2 COATS PRIMER (made to bond to plastic) + 2-3 COATS SPRAY PAINT (made to bond to plastic)

Recommended Painting Technique

  1. Paint on flat surface or work top-down

    If possible, place the piece on a flat surface to prevent any paint from dripping as you work. Otherwise, make sure to start painting from the top first and smooth the drips as you paint downwards

  2. Cutting in paint technique:

    Use a brush to paint the corners on your pieces, especially if it has trim or moulding on it, before you paint the whole piece. This is called cutting in.

    Make sure to feather out these paint lines with the brush so that you don’t end up with a hard straight line.

  3. NEVER overbrush the paint

    Once you have laid down the paint on the piece, don’t brush over it again even if it’s tempting to do so. It is still drying, so if you keep brushing over it, you will leave behind some serious texture to it.

    If you noticed uneven patches or a spot you missed, just leave it alone and fix it on your second coat of paint.

  4. Fix any paint drips or texture

    If you notice any dried paint drips or texture, gently sand it with a 220-grit sandpaper and wipe away the sanding dust with a tack cloth or a damp microfiber.

  5. Reassembly (if needed)

If you have disassembled your pieces to paint it, wait for a few hours to let the paint cure before reassembling it. Remember that dry time and cure time is different. Even if the paint has already dry to touch, it can still be easily scratched or chipped until it has cured.

And there you have it! Everything you need to know about choosing the right paint for furniture. I came up with this simple infographic on how to paint furniture so that you can easily refer to it! You can pin or download it for easy reference! I hope this helps you in your DIY furniture flipping projects! Let me know how it went in the comments below!


choosing the right paint for furniture infographic

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